Opinion Editorial
Abrogation in Islam and The Persecution of Christians
By Gabriel Sawma

(AINA) -- In the last few months, Muslim extremists attacked Christian worshippers in their churches: one in Iraq, the other in Egypt. These massacred resulted in killing innocent men, women and children while praying. Abrogation in Islam is one major cause for the atrocities that Muslim fundamentalists have against non-Muslims in general, and the Christian communities in the Islamic world, in particular. This article addresses the persecution of Christians under Islam within the doctrine of abrogation.

Introduction

The acts of pre-meditated massacres committed by Muslim extremists against Christians in the Muslim world, has become a phenomenon that needs to be addressed by the United Nations and the Arab League as well as the United States, Europe, and other nations.

We have seen the massacre of Christian worshippers by Muslim extremists in late October of 2010 in the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. In the New Year, the world witnessed another massacre against Christians in the Church of the Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, committed by Muslim extremists.

In March 2010, Muslim men from the Fulani tribe in Nigeria, armed with swords and machetes, arrived at the Christian villages in the early hours of the morning killing several hundred of Christians.

There are 35-40 million Christians living in countries whose majority are Muslims. Some 15 million live in Indonesia; 12 million live in Egypt; 3 million in Pakistan; less than one million in Iraq and 2 percent in Jerusalem. In Turkey, the Christian population numbers around 1% of the total population of 75 million. In Syria, Christians count for less than 10 percent of the population. In Lebanon the number went down from about 55 percent 75 years ago to under 30 percent today. At present rate in the Middle East, the Christians will, in a decade, have been substantially reduced to the point that they will loose their cultural vitality and political significance. The exodus is a result of the unprecedented persecution of Christians by Muslim extremists as we have seen in the last few months.

Islamic Invasion of the Middle East in the 7th Century

On the eve of Islamic invasion of the Middle East in the seventh century, more than 95 percent of the population, not including Persia, was Christians. The rest were Jews, pagans and others. Back then, the Muslim attitude toward the People of the Book, as Christians and Jews are called in the Quran, does not entail any obligation on the part of the Muslims either to convert or to exterminate them.

Following the death of the Prophet of Islam in 632, the second successor, Calipha 'Umar, had a covenant with the Christian majority of the Middle East; it is known as the Covenant of 'Umar. The Covenant was in the form of a letter presented by the Christian community; it reads the following: "When you (i.e. 'Umar) came to us, we asked you for safety for our lives, our families, our property, and the people of our religion on the conditions: to pay tribute out of hand and be humiliated; not to hinder any Muslim from stopping in our churches by night or day, to entertain him there three days and give him food there and open to him their doors; to beat the 'naqus' (the wooden board which serves as 'bell' amongst the Eastern Christians) only gently.…and not to raise our voices in them in chanting;. . . .not to build a church, convent, or hermitage, or cell, nor repair those that are dilapidated; nor assemble in any that is in a Muslim quarter, nor in their presence; not to display idolatry, nor invite to it, nor show a cross on our churches, nor in any of the roads or markets of the Muslims; not to learn the Quran nor teach it to our children, nor to prevent any of our relatives from turning Muslims if he wishes it;. . . .Not to resemble the Muslims in dress, appearance, saddles . . .; to honor and respect them, to stand up for them when we meet together;… not to make our houses higher (than the Muslim houses); not to tip weapons or swords, nor wear them in a town or on a journey in Muslim lands;. . .not to strike a Muslim; not to keep slaves who have been the property of Muslims. We impose these terms on ourselves and on our co-religionists; he who rejects them, has no protections." (A.S. Tritto, The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects, London, 1930).

Favorable Verses to Christians and Jews in the Quran

Many Muslim commentators tell half-baked explanations, often appeasing the Western audience, claim that Islam is a 'peaceful religion' or 'tolerant religion'. These terms are used to show that Islam and Christianity can 'co-exist' in harmony. Muslim writers quote the Quran to present the religion as 'peaceful'. They present verses from the Quran showing the peaceful, respectful and tolerant nature of the Quran; one verse reads: "You have your religion and I have mine" Quran 109:6, and "There is no compulsion in religion" (Quran 2:256).

Indeed, when you read the Quran, you come across verses that are tolerant to non-Muslims. One verse says: "If thy Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will thou then force them till they are believers?" (Quran 10:99). Another verse reads: "May thou will kill thyself with grief, sorrowing after, if they believe not in this argument (non-believers)" (Quran 18:6).

Some Muslim commentators defend the notion that Islam can 'co-exist' with other religions; they refer to a statement made by Ibn Ishaq, the biographer of Muhammad, who in the 8th century, stated that "The Negus of Abyssinia had given refuge to Muslim migrants to Ethiopia before they migrated to Medina." The biographer stated that "a Christian delegation from Najran (Yemen) met the Prophet inside the mosque at Medina and the Prophet treated them with respect and in friendly way. All these events, Muslim spokesmen say, show signs of tolerance in Islam.

Another verse says: "Those who believe (in the Quran) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures) and the Sabian (another sect lived in Arabia before Islam), any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord: on then shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Quran 2:62).

One verse refers to Christian priests and monks as humble and engage in worshipping God: "…Wilt thou find those who say, we are Christians; because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant" (Quran 5:8). Muslim commentators state that the Quran treats all human beings on equal plain, whatever their creed or color or nation or tribe. They refer to the following verse: "And surely we have honored the children of Adam, and we carry them in the land and the sea, and we provide them with good tiding, and we have made to excel highly most of those whom we have created." (Quran 17:70).

One verse exhorts the believers (Muslims) to uphold justice and treat non-Muslims generously: "Exempted are those who join people with whom you have signed a peace treaty, and those who come to you wishing not to fight you, nor fight their relatives. Had Allah willed, he could have permitted them to fight you. Therefore, if they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then Allah gives you no excuse to fight them" (Quran 4:90).

Another verse reads: "For every one of you we appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased he would have made you a single people, but that he might try you in what He gave you. So vie one with another in virtuous deeds" (Quran 2:148).

Muslim commentators state that Allah did not create all human beings as one community, but rather different sects, distinctively. They state that plurality of religions and ways of life and different laws co-exist peacefully with the Muslim community.

Anti Christian Sentiments in the Quran

But the same Quran calls Christians 'Dhimmi', an Aramaic word [DMM] means 'the insulted ones', who must pay "jizya" (a head tax for protection) and be humiliated (Quran 9: 29).

The Quran calls its followers to smite the necks of the unbelievers (non-Muslims): "When you meet those who disbelieve, smite at their necks until when you have killed and wounded many of them, then take them as captives, (Quran 47:4).

The Quran calls its followers to smite the unbelievers (non-Muslims) above their necks and smite their fingers; it reads: "Remember thy lord has inspired the angels with the message. Give firmness to the believers and instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers (non-Muslims). Smite them above their necks and smite the fingertips of them." (Quran 8: 12).

The Quran commands the believers (i.e. Muslims) to wage Jihad (holy war) on non-Muslims, it reads: "Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that you hate a thing which is good for you and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows you don't" (Quran 2:216).

The Quran says: "The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger (non-Muslims) and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hand and feet at alternate side cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom. . ." (Quran 5:33-34).

The Quran says: "These twains (the believers, i.e. Muslims and the disbelievers, i.e. non-Muslims) are two opponents who contend concerning their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve (non-Muslims), garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies and their skins too, will be melted; and for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning" (Quran 22:19-22).

The Quran says: "Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers (non-Muslims) chains, yokes and a blazing fire" (Quran 76:4).

The Quran says: "Therefore, when you meet the unbelievers (non-Muslims, in fight), smite them at their necks. At length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them)" (Quran 47:4-6, 15).

The Quran says: "Verily Allah has cursed the unbelievers (non-Muslims) and has prepared for them a Blazing Fire to dwell in forever. No protector will they find, nor savior. That day their faces will be turned upside down in the fire; they will say: Woe to us! We should have obeyed Allah and obeyed the Messenger! (i.e. Muhammad), our Lord! Give them double torment and curse them with a very great curse!" (Quran 33:64)

In another verse the Quran says: "Truly Allah loves those who fight in His cause in battle, as if they were a solid cement structure . . . that you believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad), and that you strive in the cause of Allah, with your property and persons. That will be best for you, if you but knew! He (Allah) will forgive you your sins, and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in gardens of eternity. That is indeed the supreme achievement. And another (favor will He bestow), which you do love -- help from Allah and a speedy victory. So give the glad tidings to the believers (Muslims)" (Quran 61:4, 11-13).

The Quran calls Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews; the verse reads: "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them [for friendship] is of them. Verily Allah guides not a people unjust" (Quran 5: 51).

The Quran commands Muslims to fight a jihad against non-Muslims, it reads: "Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fights in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We [Allah] shall bestow a vast reward" (Quran 4:74).

The Quran calls Muslims to kill the "mushrikeen" (those who associate gods with God, such as Hindus and Christians); it reads: "Seize them and slay them wherever you find them; and take no friends or helpers from their ranks" (4: 89).

The Quran calls the Jews "apes" (2: 62-65); and calls the Christians "swine" (Quran 5:59-60). The disbelievers (non-Muslims) are a folk without intelligence, (Quran 8: 65).

The Quran reads: "Say, Shall I tell you who, in the sight of Allah, deserves a yet worse retribution than these? They whom Allah has rejected and whom He has condemned, and whom He has turned into apes and swine (Jews and Christians) because they worshipped the powers of evil…" (Quran 5:60).

"And then, when they (the Jews) disdainfully persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We [Allah] said unto them: Be ye apes. Despised and rejected." Quran 7:166, Yusuf Ali translation).

"And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: Be ye apes, despised and rejected" (Quran 2:65, Yusuf Ali transaltion).

The Doctrine of Abrogation in Islam

Faced with these contradictory verses from the Quran, and instead of explaining these contradictions, Muslim theologian started looking into another mechanism to solve these contradictions. They adopted a doctrine known as "the doctrine of abrogation", a legal method that allows annulment of seemingly contradictory verses from the Quran, without deleting them from the text.

When speaking in the West, Muslim commentators, deliberately hide this major Islamic doctrine, called in Arabic "Al-Nasikh wal-Mansoukh" (the abrogator and the abrogated). The Arabic etymology of the word is "naskh" means a legal method that allows annulment of certain verses from the Quran.

Abrogation is an integral part of Islamic Shari'a and is mentioned in the Quran. It simply means that in situations wherein verses conflict one another, the early verses are overridden by the latter verses. This means the abrogated verses remain part of the Quran, but are cancelled out by other verses; both, the abrogated verses and the abrogating verses are retained in the Quran. In Arabic the term used is: al-Nasikh wal Mansukh.

The concept of "abrogation" is stated in the Quran, it means that Allah chose to reveal verses that supersede earlier verses in the same Quran. The central Quranic verse that deals with abrogation is the following:

"None of Our revelations (verses) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things? (Quran 2:106, Yusuf Ali translation). This means that when Allah decides to abrogate a verse from the Quran, He simply replaces the abrogated verse by a new and better one.

Since its inception, abrogation has been a central element in the Islamic religion. The Quran asserts the doctrine of abrogation in the following verses: "God abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books (the Quran)" (Quran 13:39). The Quran further states that "If we [Allah] please, we could take away what We have revealed to you. . ." (Quran 17:86).

Apparently, Muslim theologians were unable to explain away the inconsistencies in passages from the Quran. Some believe that the language of the Quran is Aramaic, not Arabic. The earliest copies of the Quran were written, not in the modern Arabic script as most of the Arab speaking people believe, but were written in a script borrowed from the Aramaic script, and a language closely related to Eastern Syriac, the original language of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and parts of Egypt. This means that the alleged contradictions, claimed by Muslim interpreters of the Quran, may not, after all, be contradictions, if these verses were interpreted in Aramaic rather than Arabic. (For more on this subject, see The Qur'an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur'an by Gabriel Sawma, available on amazon.com. http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com.)

Aramaic, not Arabic, was the language of the inhabitants of the Middle East in the seventh century. Even the Arab kingdoms of Palmyra in northeast Damascus, and the Nabataean kingdom of Transjordan had all their literature and epigraphic material written in Aramaic and Greek; not a single inscription of those Arab kingdoms was written in Arabic. The classical Arabic language of the modern Quran did not exist in the seventh century. http://www.syriacaramaicquran.com

But Muslim theologians consider the verses revealed to Muhammad in Medina contradict those verses revealed in Mecca and as a result, they established the doctrine of abrogation, whereby those verses revealed in Medina, would abrogate those revealed earlier in Mecca.

Nevertheless, Muslim jurists insist that the language of the Quran is Arabic and that the Arabic interpretation of the Quran renders these differences, and consequently, they use the doctrine of abrogation to take away divine verses revealed to the Prophet of Islam during his missionary. Abrogation allows the verses, which came late, to annul earlier verses. (John Burton, The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 7, s.v. "Naskh," p.1010.)

In addition to the Quran, the Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet) confirms the use of the doctrine of abrogation in early Islam. We see this doctrine being applied during the time of the third successor of the Prophet of Islam, 'Uthman ibn 'Affan. The doctrine is recorded in the second divine book in Sunni Islam, Sahih al-Bukhari, written more than two hundred years after the death of the Prophet, reads the following: "I said to 'Uthman bin 'Affan (while he was collecting the Qur'an) regarding the verse:--Those of you who die and leave wives…" (Quran 2:240) "This verse was abrogated by another verse. So why should you write it? (Leave it in the Qur'an)? 'Uthman said: "O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place." (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 6, book 60, number 53 See, http://www.wikiislam.net/wiki/Abrogation_Naskh)

Abrogation is shown in the most important and reliable source of Islam, second only to the Quran, Sahih al-Bukhari (846AD); it reads: "They had a choice, either fast or feed a poor for every day… and added, "This verse is abrogated." (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 6, book 60, number 33. See wikiislam.net. Abrogation)

Abrogation is attested in another important and reliable source of Islam, Sahih Muslim; it reads: "The Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur'an abrogates some part with the other." (Hadith, Sahih Muslim, Book 3, number 0675). See also, Muhammad Abu-al-Hussain Muslim bin al-Hahhah al-Nissapuri, Sahih Muslim, International Islamic Publishing House, 1971, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, book 003, no. 0675.

More testaments to the existence of the doctrine in early Islam is attested by Sahih Muslim; it reads: "…I recited to him this verse of Sura al-Furqan…And those who call not upon another god with Allah and slay not the soul which Allah has forbidden except in the cause of justice…He said: This is a Meccan verse (i.e.verse came to Muhammad in Mecca) which has been abrogated by a verse revealed at Medina…" (Hadith, Sahih Muslim, book 43, number 7173).

Another Hadith book in early Islam, the Muwatta, confirms the use of the doctrine of abrogation in early Islam; it reads: "Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Hazm from Amra bint Abd al Rahman that A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Amongst what was sent down of the Qur'an …--then it was abrogated by…" (Hadith al-Muwatta, book 30, number 3.17b).

The doctrine of abrogation was taught for the judges in early Islam. This is attested by 'Ali ibn Abi Taleb, son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam and cousin, who later declared himself the fourth successor of the Prophet. 'Ali talked about the doctrine of abrogation as a precondition for qualifying an individual to be an Islamic judge, (He said to 'Abdul Rahman, can you differentiate between abrogating and abrogated verses? 'Abdul Rahman said, "no." Thereupon 'Ali said "You are damned and cause others to be damned." (Annashikh wal-Mansukh by Abul Qasim, published by Hindia Press, Cairo, p. 6. A similar saying is found in Al-Nasikh wal Mansukh by Abu Ja'far al-Nahhas, Beirut, 2003, p. 9).

One saying attributed to the Prophet in particular addresses abrogation; it cites Abu al-A'la bin al-Shikhkhir, considered by Muslim theologian to be a reliable source of knowledge about the Prophet's life, as saying, that "The Messenger (Muhammad) of Allah abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Quran abrogates some part of it with the other." The Prophet of Islam accepted that Allah would invalidate previous revelations, often making ordinances stricter. (Anwar al-Tanzil wa-Asrar al-Ta'wil by 'Abdallah Ibn 'Umar al-Baydawi, published by Dar al-Tiba'ah, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1997, pp.116-7).

In his book, Tafsir: The Commentary on the Qur'an, Abu Ja'far al-Tabari (d.923) a distinguished authority on Islamic history and one of the early interpreters of the Quran, confirms that abrogation can be used in connection with "commands and prohibitions," (Tafsir: The Commentary on the Qur'an by Abu Ja'far bin Jarir al-Tabari, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 471-2).

In the eleventh century, Muslim theologians insist that verses from the Quran may substitute other verses, (See for example, Al-Naasikh wal Mansukh by Ibn Hazim, Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1986). They also agreed that the Prophet changed his rules according to circumstances, (Sahih al-Bukhari by Muhammad al-Bukhari, vol 6, Kazi, Lahore, 1979, book 60, p. 31; See also, Al-Kashshaf 'an Haqa'iq al-Tanzil wa-'Uyun al-Aqawil fi Wujuh al-Ta'wil, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut, 1967, part I, pp 337).

Modern Muslim commentators confirm the doctrine of abrogation; they state that the laws might differ across time but that there should be no shame in the same lawgiver replacing temporary law with permanent ones (i.e. abrogating). (Tafsir al-Qur'an by Abdul Majid al-Daryabadi, Idara Islamiyyat, Lahore, 1985, p. 36).

Muslim theologian divide the Quran into verses revealed to Muhammad by the Angel Jibril in Mecca when his community of followers was weak and more inclined to compromise with Christians, Jews and the pagans of Arabia. It is during this period in Mecca that the earlier, peaceful, compromising, and lenient verses were revealed to Muhammad. But as his authority grew strong after he and his followers migrated to Medina, other verses came down to him; it is those defiant, insulting, attacking, and calling for jihad against non-Muslims verses that abrogate the previous verses.

Muslim theologians insist that anyone who studies the Quran without mastering the doctrine of abrogation would be "deficient" (See Al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh by Abu al-Kasim Hibat-Allah Ibn Salama, Dar al Ma'arif, Cairo, 1966, pp. 4-5. On page 142-3, he lists the abrogated verses. See also pp. 7, 11, 26-27, 37, 46.).

Western readers may not have heard with this fundamental doctrine in Islam. Muslim commentators refer to the peaceful, compromising, and tolerant verses from the Quran; they do not tell their Western audience that these verses have been annulled and have been replaced by verses which are defiant, insulting, attacking and calling for jihad against non-Muslims. So far this tactic, used by Muslim commentators, has been successful in the Western media. Western journalists and scholars, although--some of them studied Arabic--are not capable of understanding the old Arabic language, in which the Arabic literature and history is originally documented, and they may not have access to these books which deal with abrogation. Muslim commentators avoid any discussion of the abrogation in the Quran.

Al-Suyuti, (1445-1505), an authoritative Muslim scholar said in his Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran that everything in the Quran about forgiveness and peace is abrogated by verse 9:5. The verse orders Muslims to fight the unbelievers and to establish Allah's kingdom on earth. Verse 9:5 reads the following:

"When the sacred months are over, slay the 'mushrikoon' (those who associate gods with Allah) wherever your find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful" (Quran 9:5).

Muslim theologians call this verse, "The Verse of the Sword." Some Muslim writers call it "the Ultimatum". Chapter 9 of the Quran, in which the Verse of the Sword is written, is the only chapter that does not begin "in the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful." All other chapters of the Quran begin with this opening statement. (See Al-Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Quran by Al-Suyuti, part 1, pp.60, 65, 164).

Muslim commentators confirm that the Prophet received this revelation (9:5) in the year 631, one year before his death, when he had returned to Mecca, triumphant. (See, The History of al-Tabari, vol. 8, pp. 160-87). The most reliable source in the Hadith collection of Sahih al-Bukhari, states that chapter 9 of the Quran was the last chapter revealed to Muhammad. (Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 6, book 60, # 129).

Prior to receiving The Verse of the Sword, Muhammad had reached agreements with various pagan tribes of Arabia. But all these agreements were nullified after that verse. The Verse of the Sword creates license for Muslim extremists to kill non-Muslim, solely on the basis of their refusal to accept Islam.

Al-Dahhak Ibn Muzahim, an authentic transmitter of Hadiths, said that The Verse of the Sword "abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term. The Shafi'i School of Jurisprudence in Sunni Islam took this as a justification for killing anyone who abandoned prayer and for fighting anyone who refused to pay religious "Jizya" (head tax for protection paid to Muslims by non-Muslims)." (See Islamic Jurisprudence: Shafi'i Risalah by Khadduri, pp. 333-52, notes, pp. 33-9).

Muslim fundamentalists cite this verse to justify their violent jihad against non-Muslims. The Quranic term 'mushrikeen' or "mushrikoon" means those who associate gods with Allah; this applies to the Hindus and Christians. Christians' belief in the Trinity implies that Jesus is God. This has been interpreted by Muslim theologians that Christians believe in two Gods: God the father and God the Son. Such a belief is called, in Arabic, "ishrak", the etymology of the Quranic word, "mushrikeen".

Since Chapter 9 of the Quran came late during the life of the Prophet, therefore, it abrogates previous peaceful verses of the Quran. According to Sahih al-Bukhari, Allah revealed this chapter to the Prophet in order to discard any restraint on Muslims, and to command Muslims to fight against all the pagans as well as against the People of the Book (i.e. Christians and Jews) if they do not embrace Islam, or until they pay the "Jizya" (which is a religious tax). The verse says: "But if they (non-Muslims) repent and establish worship and pay the alms to the needy…" This is an ultimatum to non-Muslims to convert to Islam.

Al-suyuti states that one hundred twenty four verses in the Quran have been abrogated by "The Verse of the Sword". According to Shaidalah, a Muslim source of jurisprudence, the Quranic verse that we mentioned earlier which states: "You have your religion and I have mine" (Quran 109:6), and "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Quran 2:256), both verses have been abrogated, long time ago. (See al-Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Quran by al-Suyuti, cited earlier).

A contemporary, Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan Al-Buti, a PhD holder from al-Azhar University in Egypt, and dean of the Faculty of Religion at Damascus University, Syria , wrote the following commentary: "Verse 9:5 does not leave any room in the mind to conjecture about what is called defensive war. This verse asserts that holy war, which is demanded in Islamic law, is not a defensive war because it could legitimately be an offensive war. That is the apex and most honorable of all holy wars. Its goal is the exaltation of the word of Allah, the construction of Islamic society, and the establishment of Allah's kingdom on earth regardless of the means. It is legal to carry on an offensive holy war." (Jurisprudence in Muhammad's Biography by Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, Dar al-Fikr, Damascus, 2001, pp. 323-4).

Western readers, who read the Quran, will not notice this distinction between the abrogated and non-abrogated verses. The abrogated verses were kept in the Quran. So, Western readers do not know that those verses, which are considered nice, peaceful, reasonable, loving and tolerant toward non-Muslims, are in fact abrogated, i.e. overridden and annulled by later verses which validate such things as terrorism, hatred and violence toward other religions.

Muslim commentators, who appear on TV programs or write essays on this subject, do not disclose to their Western audience that these verses are in fact abrogated and could not be used as a reference of Islamic peaceful dealings with other religions. Only the remaining verses which have threatening tones against non-Muslims are not abrogated, because they came to the Prophet at a later time.

The current phase of Jihad against non-Muslims stems from the doctrine of abrogation, which commands Muslims to "Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth of the People of the Book (i.e. Christians and Jews), until they pay the Jizya (head tax for protection) with submission and feel themselves humiliated" (Quran 9:29). "And those who disbelieve (non-Muslims) will be gathered unto Hell" (Quran8:36). "If thou couldst see how the angels receive those who disbelieve (non-Muslims), smiting faces and their backs and (saying): Taste the punishment of burning" (Quran 8:50).

The Verse of the Sword abrogates the following verse: "We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and his children (i.e. the twelve children of Jacobs), and what is given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other prophets from their Lord. . ." (Quran 2:257).

Abrogation has ramifications, one of which is manifested in the lack of condemnation by the Muslims in general to the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries. This explains why Muslims around the world have little or no enthusiasm to mobilize demonstrations in the streets of Washington DC, or Paris or London to condemn Muslim terrorists. The mild reaction by Muslims to the attack of September 11 on the United States is just one example of lack of interest in condemning Muslim terrorists. The attackers of September 11 did what they did in compliance with "The Verse of the Sword". The doctrine of abrogation drops any sense of remorse, or mercy by Muslim extremists towards non-Muslims. There is a popular saying in the Muslim world in Arabic: "You must defend your brethren (Muslim) under any circumstances, whether he is aggressor or victim" (Wansur akhaka idha kaana dhaliman aw madhluman).

The doctrine of abrogation creates hatred by Muslims towards non-Muslims. It is impermissible for a Muslim to attend the celebration of Christian festivals and congratulate them. Here is a Fatwa issued by Sheikh Muhammed Salih al-Munajjid; it reads the following: "…It is not permissible for the Muslims to attend the festivals of the mushrikeen (those who associate gods with Allah), according to the consensus of the scholars whose words carry weight . . .Do not enter upon the mushrikeen in their churches (i.e. Christians) on the day of their festival, for divine wrath is descending upon them. . .Avoid the enemies of Allah on their festivals. . .Whosoever settles in the land of the non-Arabs (non-Muslims) and celebrates their new year and festival and imitates them until he dies in that state, will be gathered with them on the Day of Resurrection" (http://islamqa.com/en/ref/11427) Last time viewed Jan. 5, 2011.

Treatment of Christians under Islam

The doctrine of abrogation gives license to Muslim extremists to persecute non-Muslims. From the beginning, Islam regarded both Christians and Jews as second-class citizens. Time and again, the Muslim texts, which are represented in the Quran and the second source of the Islamic law, known as the "Hadith" (sayings of the Prophet) and "Sunnah" (deeds of the Prophet), assert the intention of humiliating Christians and Jews. Never was a Christian or a Jew to be left in doubt about his inferior status. And it must be said that, on the whole, Christian communities were massacred and their churches were taken away and turned into mosques; to add insult to injury, Christian men and women were forced to wear special garments in order to identify themselves in public as "dhimmi", i.e. the insulted community.

History of persecutions of Christians and Jews under Islamic Sharia has been going on since the early Islamic invasion of the Middle East in the seventh century. During the reign of al-Mutawakkil (847-61), a wave of anti-dhimmi (anti-Christian) feeling swept the Middle East. The Calipha, Barhebraeus (d. 1286) reports, "was a hater of the Christians, and afflicted them by ordering them to bind bandlets of wool round their heads; and none of them was to appear outside his house without a belt and girdle. And the new churches were to be pulled down. And if they should happen to have a spacious church, even though it was ancient, one part of it was to be made into a mosque.

The Massacres of Armenians in 1915, which killed more than 1.5 million Christian Armenians in Turkey, in addition to half a million Syriac Orthodox, Syrian Catholics, Assyrians (i.e. the Church of the East), Chaldeans and other Christian minorities, who were massacred by the Muslim Turks and Kurds in the region of Tur 'Abdin in Southeast Turkey, is a reminder to what extent Muslim extremists can do to annihilate Christians, Jews and Hindus, if they have power and the upper hand.

In modern days, Pakistan's blasphemy law is one of the main causes of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities in that country. It was enacted into law during the Islamization process under the military dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. Under the law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad commits a crime and faces the death penalty. The law stipulates that "derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine." (See the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan; http://www.rationalistinternational.net/Shaikh/blasphemy_laws_in_pakista

Christians who make up 4 percent of Pakistan's population have been especially concerned about the law saying it offers them no protection. Convictions hinge on witness testimony and often these are linked to personal vendettas. Under this law, a Pakistani court sentenced in November, 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four to death, in a case that has exposed deep rifts in the troubled Muslim nation of more than 170 million people. On Tuesday, January 4, 2011, the governor of the most populous state of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who had strongly opposed the law and sought presidential pardon for the 45-year-old Christian woman, was gunned down by one of his bodyguards.

In Sudan, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million Christians have been killed by the Janjaweed, the Arab Muslim forces in northern Sudan since 1984. (Source, Wikipedia).

In Ghaza, under the auspices of Hamas, Christian citizens, Christian establishments and religious institutions are singled out and attacked by Muslim extremists belonging to the Islamic Hamas movement.

In 1999, anti-Christian violence erupted by local Muslims in Indonesia. Tens of thousands died when Muslim gunmen terrorized Christians who had voted for independence in East Timor. (See The Faith: A History of Christianity by Brian Moynahan, Random House, 2003, p. 728.)

Saudi Arabia regularly imprisons Christians from other nations. Christians are arrested and lashed for practicing their faith in public. No one is allowed to be a citizen in this nation unless he or she is Muslim. Prayer services by Christians are broken up by the police, and people who convert to Christianity are often arrested and may be sentenced to death.

Confiscation of Churches

The spread of Islam was always associated confiscating churches and turning them into mosques. One of the major shrines in Eastern Christianity was the Church of St. John the Baptist in Damascus, Syria. Pope John Paul II visited the Great Mosque of Damascus) popularly known as al-Masjid al-Umawi) in 2001; he was aware that he was visiting the site of the Great Church of St. John the Baptist.

Muslim Turks annexed the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which became the principal mosque of the Ottoman Empire. The Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), constructed between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinianus. It was a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque. It was officially turned into a museum in 1935 by Ataturk.

The great Jacobite Church of Amida (modern-day Diyarbakr in Southeast Turkey, became the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Diarbakr.

The tomb of a Jacobite Patriarch at Niveveh, near Mosul in Iraq, was confiscated and turned into the mosque of Jonah (Nabi Yunis). (See the Decline of Medieval Hellenism, by Speros Vryonis, 1899, p. 197.)

Th e Ottoman Empire never stopped confiscating churches and converting them into mosques. When they occupied Budapest, all the churches but one became mosques. In Cyprus, the Gothic Cathedral of Famagusta became the Turkish mosque of Lala Mustafa Pasha. Originally, it was known as the Saint Nicolas Cathedral, and later as Ayasofya Mosque of Magusa, the largest medieval building in Gamagusta. Built between 1298 and 1400, it was consecrated as a Christian cathedral in 1328.

A significant surge in churches converted into mosques followed the 1974 Turkish Invasion of Cyprus. Many of the Orthodox churches in Northern Cyprus were confiscated, and many are still in the process of becoming mosques.

The Armenian Cathedral of Edessa, which was lost during the 1915 massacres of the Armenians, Syrians, Nestorians (modern day Assyrians), and Chaldeans, became a mosques, with a mihrab (direction of prayer to Mecca) punched into the south wall to indicate the direction of Mecca. There are no churches in Edessa in use today.

In Egypt, the columns of an older Christian Church was confiscated by the Muslims of Egypt and converted into Ibn Tulun Mosque; considered one of the world's largest mosques.

In many instances mosques were established on the places of Jewish or Christian sanctuaries associated with Biblical personalities. The second Calipha 'Umar, laid down the foundation of al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism. Its location was the site where Abraham offered his son Isaac in sacrifice. It was built by King Solomon in the tenth century BC.

Conclusion

To make things worse for the Christian communities throughout the Middle East, every single state in the Arab League, except Lebanon, inserted in their constitutions provisions indicating that "Islam is the religion of the state"; or " the laws of the state must be based on Islamic Sharia"; or the "president must be Muslim". All these provisions in the constitutions of the Muslim countries demonstrate disrespect and discrimination against the original Christian inhabitants of these states. Such provisions encourage Muslim states and individuals to commit acts of violence and murder against the Christian minorities. Such constitutional provisions make it possible for fanatic parties to flourish and instigate riots and violence against the Christian minorities as we see in Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Indonesia, and other Muslim nations.

As if these discriminating constitutions are not enough, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international organization with a permanent delegation to the United Nations, with 57 member states is adding more troubles to the minorities in the Muslim states. While it attempts to safeguard the interests and ensure the progress and well-being of Muslims all over the world, not a single resolution taken by this organization addressed the status of the minorities in the Muslim states or condemning the massacres and violence against them. I might add that the U.S. has a permanent representative to this body. So far no meeting was held by the OIC to look into these massacres, or to condemn them.

The Arab league (consists of twenty-two Arab states) holds meetings to discuss issues related the Middle East, or involving Islam. The Arab league refuses to meet or discuss the execution of Christians and other minorities living in its Member States.

Arab Heads of States and their foreign ministers meet or a regular basis to discuss policies related to the Middle East. So far not a single meeting was held to discuss the persecution of the Christians living in their states.

Gabriel Sawma is professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Sharia (law), European Union Law, Islamic banking and finance, Arabic and Aramaic. Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts. Consultant on recognition and enforcement of foreign divorce judgments in US courts. Author of a book titled, “The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an.”


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